Jet-powered flying taxi unveiled following first flight

[LONDON] The world's first all-electric vertical takeoff and landing passenger jet has been unveiled after completing its first flight.

German startup Lilium aims to have a fleet of the five-seat aircraft - which can operate with a pilot or in drone mode - flying in cities worldwide by 2025, providing a pay-per-ride service that will be emission-free, five times faster than a car and produce less noise than a motorbike.

The plane will have a 300km range, allowing it link New York and Boston. A short hop between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Manhattan will cost about US$70 per passenger, making it cheaper than a helicopter and competitive with top-end limousine services, chief commercial officer Remo Gerber said in an interview.

A full-scale, full-weight prototype took off from Lilium's base near Munich on April 4 and has begun flight tests to secure regulatory approval, the company said on Thursday.

The craft is powered by 36 jet engines that swivel after takeoff to provide forward flight in the manner of a standard plane, using only 10 per cent of the energy of multi-rotor drones based on helicopter technology. That saving in turn allows it to fly for 10 times the distance, overcoming the range issues regarded as a major obstacle to electric-powered planes.

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